Evangelical Church: In the wake of banning refugees, what do you believe?

If you spent your teens years in an evangelical youth group, you know about the 10/40 window. As I have very poor spacial awareness, maps and globes never meant much to me, but I knew that the box between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator with huge amounts of poverty and no access to Jesus. At least, that is what I learned when I was being implored to pray for these people. And I did pray for these people.

In stadiums full of other kids learning about Jesus and just how sold out we had to be for him, I learned about muslim countries and how going there for Jesus might just be the death of us. I learned we should do it anyway. I was told that the gospel was worth my life, that Jesus may call me into dangerous places. I was told that I should follow Jesus no matter the cost. I pledged that I would and I meant it.

I went to college and majored in English education so that I would have a skill to rely on and a good cover to get into countries closed to christians. I joined bible studies that also had a 10/40 bent. I heard stories of people praying on the sly in restaurants while pretending they were commenting on the pictures on the walls. I read emails and updates where everyone’s names had been changed to the names of candy bars and I spent weeks and months faithfully praying for “Kit Kat” and “Reese Cup” to know the grace of God.

I was told that God could and would change the hearts of these people, if we were only willing to follow Jesus no matter the cost, God promised that it would be worth it. God would make a way when there seeme to be  no way.  I believed it. I still do.

The same churches that taught me to love my global muslim neighbors as myself, before myself, are the same churches who categorically voted for a president who has made good on the campaign promise of a muslim ban. He said he would ban muslims from entering this country and he has. Many who sent me to my knees, weeping on behalf of the 10/40 window are complicit in sending those same people to die in the very places we begged God for access to.

The muslim people that we knew only God could reach are in our airports, and the church is complicit in turning them away. You asked me to give my life. You told me it would be worth it eternally, and now you cry SAFETRY FIRST to mostly women and children who are desperately looking for safety.

The same church that told me that people were dying eternally damned because no one was willing to risk their life to tell these people about Jesus, is the same church that is telling me it isn’t safe for these women and children to be in our neighborhoods. I thought following Jesus was worth the risk.

You wonder why the millenials, even those raised in your churches, are exiting your pews en masse. It isn’t because we didn’t believe what you were saying. It is because we did. We believed you. You said, go do something dangerous for God and we said YES! But when it was your turn to welcome these people you said it was too  dangerous. We still want a Jesus who is worth following no matter the cost.

The evangelical church told us that souls were on the line, that eternal life was at stake. But the evangelical church was willing to elect a president who staked his claim on banning muslims. The church voted for that. You with your big T Truth and your make Godly choices, you decided that refugee banning was worth it.

My theology has moved quite a bit since those days. I am now a proud member of a mainline liberal congregation. I go to a liberal seminary and find my current beliefs well represented there.

But I will never forget my theological mother tongue. I know the evangelical message well. It introduced me to God and the power of Jesus Christ, and for that I will always be grateful.

As a daughter of the evangelical church I am asking: What do you really believe? If you really believe that anyone who hasn’t accepted Jesus Christ as their savior is eternally damned, wouldn’t you demand that any muslim who wants to can come in? Wouldn’t it be worth whatever risk there may be for the chance to introduce this muslim to Jesus?  This is what you told me. I believed it. My question now is, do you?






Not My Business

I talk about this instance a lot. Like, a lot. The one time I preached, I talked about it and that is the piece of the sermon that most often people tell me stuck with them. That not my business is such a hard lesson for me to learn.

“Mommy, that not you business.”

I think this was the most important thing anyone has ever said to me. It was said to me by a child who could not yet use the potty on her own. It was said to me from a five-point harness I had to buckle, because her tiny thumbs didn’t work well.

“Mommy, that not you business.”

At that time, I was worried about the state of someone else’s heart. I was worried about the ways I was being perceived. I was worried about everything except for me and what I was feeling and thinking and choosing. I was worried about everything, except the thing that was actually my business.

Now this tiny prophet is just a little bit bigger. She comes home every once in a while with reports she didn’t get her work done.  When I ask her why, she shrugs. “I didn’t want to. I was bored with it. Everyone else at the table was doing something I did want to do.”

You can read the rest at She Loves. I just love that place. 

When it is still Christmas, and Christmas is Inconvenient.

I met a friend at Target the day after Christmas. Specifically we met at the Starbucks in the Target. There is also a Starbucks in the Kroger, and in the Barnes and Noble . The Edgewood shopping center is convenient like that. You can get your coffee fix wherever you already are. No extra stop necessary.

I needed a planner. As we finished our drinks we wandered around the Target, my friend and I on a totally predictable and also perfect mom date I couldn’t seem to settle on one, but I did find an awesome Christmas tablecloth on clearance. Apparently, the Target clearance bins are not subject to the liturgical calendar. On the 26th of December Christmas has to go. By the time I checked out all the planners at Barnes and Noble and decided what I really needed at Target were some brush markers, the dollar spot had been completely cleared of Christmas, and Valentines day was securely in place.

Didn’t anyone tell Target there were twelve days of Christmas and we were only on number two? No time for lingering on the virgin birth of God in the flesh, we have the next thing to sell! The next to anticipate! Christmas trees are dropping their needles and we need to MOVE ON ALREADY. Those decorations are beautiful but we are tired of bumping our heads on the hanging garland and the tree is taking up too much room in the living area. We need more free space so we can embrace our NEW lives in our NEW year. Get that stuff put away.

This last day of Christmas I have to admit that I have been obsessed with Mary in a way that I haven’t been since I was great with child on Christmas Eve. Her life got totally jacked up. What dreams died to her the moment she said YES to God? What was she sacrificing? Did she ever grieve it, the way she thought things would go?

I wonder a lot about Mary, if people thought she was completely insane her entire life. If she ever looked God dead in the face and said “this is not what I signed up for.” I wonder if she ever felt like it wasn’t worth it, and sometimes I wonder if she was the first person the angel came to. I wonder sometimes if she wasn’t number three, two others too scared to be blessed by God. I don’t think this actually happened, but I don’t know that I would blame those ladies if it did.

I am wondering a lot about Mary, and the ways that saying a bold YES to God permanently inconvenienced her life, an unexpected pregnancy, a swift and terrified detour to Egypt, years without introducing Baby Jesus to her mom. I am sure, that it was awful watching Jesus on the cross, and I am sure that she had a unique and beautiful joy when she embraced the miracle of the resurrection. Only a mother’s love, you know?

I am 33 and could have retired as a teacher at 52. But instead I am in seminary, surrounded by mostly 20 somethings and wondering what the heck I am doing. Where will I be when this all ends? I have no idea. Church? maybe. Chaplaincy? Maybe. With a writing career that is helped by MDiv. beside my name? I don’t know. I know that this decision isn’t the safest financially. I look at the expression on my husbands face as the budget gets tighter and dream of a home where neither of us are in school. My kids will be 10 and 9 at my graduation. They don’t know a life where one of us isn’t in school. Going back to school was kind of inconvenient, it wasn’t what I planned.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the inconvenience of Jesus coming as a baby, for really all parties involved. Babies are a lot of things, but not exactly paradigms of efficiency. They come when they want, they sleep when they want, they spit and poop on whatever they want. Plans with a new born need to be flexible whether or not you plan them that way. I wonder if it also wasn’t inconvenient for God, to be cold and have no way to tell anyone to pull up his blanket a little, to become a human and not even have control over his bowels. I wonder if God also didn’t wish a little to move on already.

I have been thinking a lot, about how inconvenient twelve whole days of Christmas is. I think maybe God isn’t really interested in our convenience. I think maybe our need to move on already is exactly what needs interrupted. Twelve days of Christmas is terribly inconvenient, and being pregnant unexpectedly while still being a virgin is terribly inconvenient, and being a baby is inconvenient. I think perhaps that is exactly where we meet God.